Biswin Sadi Memoirs, growing up in Delhi during the 1960s & 70s, authored by Jamil Urfi & published by Cinnamon teal. A must-read account for all those who want to recollect the lost time of Indian capital along with a few small cities of Uttarpradesh. The author, Abdul Jamil Urfi was born in 1960 at Aligarh as the eldest child of Dr. Abdul Jalil & Mrs. Mehajabeen Jalil. When he reached the age of seven, his family was relocated to Delhi (1967) in the upper-middle-class township of East Nizamuddin. In those days the locality was widely inhabited by the immigrant Punjabi community who came from Pakistan following the partition.
From the founder of the famous Urdu magazine “Biswin Sadi” Khustar Girami up to Andrews family, he provides a detailed description of the sociocultural dynamics of his diverse neighborhood. The narratives give insights on communal harmony , tolerance & cultural vibrancy of Nizamuddin East. A full chapter recollects authors nostalgia of the festivities celebrations, nikah ceremony of his sisters toy dolls, bhole bisre geet & ever popular BBC Urdu broadcasting.
The Urdu speakers are still sensitive with the Sheen Qaaf of language. The author has explained the feelings of Sheen Qaaf with hilarious real-life examples. While working in middle eastern country, I observed antipathy among Pakistani Punjabi colleagues against Urdu speaking community. One of the reasons might be linguistic chauvinism asserted by elite Urdu speaking bureaucrats during founding years.
The part of the book discussed the ancestral accounts of his family focusing on fine biographical details of late Prof. Ale Ahmad Suroor, a literary Urdu legend of modern ages & his late father Dr. Abdul Jalil. The chapter convented education reflects an upper-middle-class educational stratification that still echoes in our North Indian social fabric. In the early nineties, I would recall, the Minto- Circle (AMU) was filled by students from diverse North Indian schools in a race for availing internal quota of University. The big cities Anglo-Indian students tried to assert superiority over the public school while the poor chaps like me coming from small towns & cities convents filled the bottom of strata. While in the west, a major transformation happened in educational models in the last half-century. The educated middle-class mindset still affiliates success with certain so-called esteemed professions measuring it with yards of ranks & quantification of marks. The author gave a clear articulation of this mindset connecting it with his real-life accounts, precisely the notion of imposing career selection by father.
One of my ex Canadian colleague who was born as the son of Canadian minister had chosen physiotherapy as a profession in the early seventies. His British wife who was working as a nurse in Riyadh from the last twenty years was the daughter of Medical Professor & consultant of Pathology. Even forty years later, no one from a family of privilege medical fraternity in our stratified society would able to accept their children in these roles. Such discriminative mindset has evolved with our robust colonial education system & layered social orders. From the last two years, I saw twitter handle with name “90s kid” catching nostalgia by sharing of past ads, popular desi comics, Ghulam Ali Ghazals, & Jaspal Bhatti shows. Sometimes it catches lost days of Doordarshan.
Born at the end of the seventies, I could say that not much has changed then in eighties & nineties except the vanishing landscape of Urdu world. In the early 90s, two of my friends were disqualified in mintocircle entrance exam at AMU, Aligarh as they were not able to pass in elementary Urdu. The small cities convent school in those days don’t have Urdu as the third language. In early childhood, I saw old Madhoramji (The owner of city’s oldest Kirana shop at Pilibhit ) attired in Nehru topi, kurta & dhoti writing his customer’s orders in perfect Urdu. It was the biggest surprise for me at that tender age when in school, it was considered a Quranic language. Madhoram Ji passed in 2001 at the age of ninety-four & now his grandson sits on the same mat writing memos in Devanagari script.
Like other places, the author’s description of Pilibhit as one of the Mufassil towns has also been changed with time. The beautiful gateways of Drummond Ganj became ruins in the last forty years. The ornamental beauty of Bareilly Darwaza that existed much closer to his ancestors home has lost long ago. The naked lakhori bricks of Darwaza devoid of plaster are waiting for their sad demise. The much-revered Shahji Miyan was pir of my mother’s grandfather, Sheikh Haji Nisar Ahmad. A boorish middle-class village zamindar who paid a humble visit on every Thursday to his pir in the late 19th century when carts & horses covered countryside distances. Almost 125 yrs later many of his fourth & fifth generation descendants are in Karachi, Toronto, & other South Asian hubs of USA & Canada. During childhood Ammi proudly told us, it was a blessing of saint who once said, Nisar Ahamd “teri naslen puri duniya me phailengi”. Then I used to asked her : “what about those descendants who were struggling with poverty in village life after the abolition of zamindari”.
So Aligarh was Alma mater of mine & my father both. I stayed their for seventeen year & also listened stories from Abbu during childhood days. Just yesterday Abbu told me that in those days Shibli road was also residence of Prof. Mukhtar Uddin Arzu (Arabic), Rashid Ahmad Siddiqui & his provost Prof. Aulad Ahamd Siddiqui in addition to Prof. Ale Ahmad Suroor. The authors eloquently written passages of by gone days connecting it with global political changes, usage of verbatim Urdu words, sandwiching of Bollywood accounts & poetic verses added a rigor to manuscript. A nicely written memoir touching multiple dimensions of a upper middle class Muslim boy who was privileged to be a grandson of literary parents & grandparents. In many ways, the account will fill you with nostalgia of by gone days that most of my generation had heard from our parents. As an educator himself he gave a critical & valuable insights that can be seen in many sections such as convented education & rites of passage.
So Aligarh was Alma mater of mine & my father both. I stayed there for seventeen-year & also listened stories from Abbu during childhood days. Abbu told me that in those days Shibli road was also residence of Prof. Mukhtar Uddin Arzu (Arabic), Rashid Ahmad Siddiqui & his provost Prof. Aulad Ahamd Siddiqui in addition to Prof. Ale Ahmad Suroor.
The passages of bygone days connected with global political changes, usage of verbatim Urdu words, sandwiching of Bollywood accounts & poetic verses added rigor to the memoir. A nicely written memoir of an upper-middle-class Muslim boy who was privileged to be a grandson of literary parents & grandparents. In many ways, the account will fill you with the nostalgia of bygone days that most of my generation had heard from our parents. As an educator himself, he gave a critical & valuable insight that can be seen in many sections such as convented education & rites of passage.
A Karachiwalla’s connection with his ancestral hometown Pilibhit in Uttarpradesh.
Pics & Memoir by Mian Tauseef Ahmad, compiled by Rehan Asad
Mian Tauseef, a seventy two years old retired squadron leader of Pakistan Air force social media shares consisted a larger chunk of Indian history, culture, poetry, & bollywood. His profile introduced him ” Squadron leader (R) Mian Tauseef Ahmad, b 20 Oct 1947, Arain settled in Karachi came from Pilibhit, Rohilkhand, UP“. He was born two month five days after the 15 August 1947 when the Indian subcontinent gained independence from British rule. His birth place Pilibhit was located on the fringes of Western Uttar Pradesh close to the Indo-Nepal border. His ancestors belonged to “Arain tribe” of eastern Punjab who migrated to Rohilkhand in late 18th century. It was famines & political unrest caused by Bhatti Rajputs that forced a small part of the tribe from Punjab to relocate in terai plains of Himalayas. By the time of partition, this small Punjabi diaspora of approximately around ten thousand was distributed in eighty villages of Pilibhit, Bareilly & Nainital districts of United Provinces. As an agrarian tribe, they were stratified as cultivators (Kisans), middle class landowners (Zamindars) & few of the elite landlords (Rich Zamindars). With Indian partition almost half of the youngsters moved to the newly created Pakistan & mainly settled in Urdu speaking cities of Sindh with few families in Punjab & NWFP. His father Mian Muhammad Tauseef was born in July 1922 in village Dheram, District Pilibhit & mother Qayum Al Nisa Begum was born in village Karghaina, District Pilibhit in October, 1928. A British army recruit Mian Tufail who also took part in WW II moved with his family members from Pilibhit to Lahore in December 1947.
In his reflective account he shares a biographical account of his late father Mian Tufail Ahmad, ancestral connections with Pilibhit in India, story of their migration to Pakistan, his struggle, education & upbringing among the diverse cultures of Punjab & North West frontier as an Urdu speaker with roots from small fringe town of United Provinces.
Mian Tauseef Ahmad wrote: My late father Mr. Tufail Ahmad was from a kissan (small farmers) family of Arain tribe in the Village Dheram, Amaria Block, Pilibhit located in Uttar Pradesh, India. Before the abolition of Zamindari in 1952 , our small village was under zamindari of one Hindu Zamindar. I am told that his representative would visit the village twice a year just to collect Malia (the government tax). After 15 August 1947, it came under All India Congress Government and by 1951 all Zamindaris were abolished and land belonged to the farmers. The farming land in Uttar Pradesh were measured in Bighas. My grandfather late Mr. Barkat Ali owned hundred Beghas of land. Now the official record of farming is kept in Hectares and one Hectare is equal to 20 kanals. There are almost 80 villages of Arains. Majority of these Arains are called Sirsawal Arains because of their affiliation from Sirsa (Now in Haryana) from where they migrated in 1772 AD.
My late father was first in his small village to join the Primary School. It was located in Madhopur, a village that was 6 Kms away from our ancestral home. He passed his class V in 1932. He completed his middle from Government School of a small town Jahanabad, District Pilibhit. It was due to an incident during a football match at Government High School Jahanabad of District Pilibhit where some students surely including my late father misbehaved with the referee. As a result they were expelled from admission & barred to be admitted in any school of Bareilly division. So he joined Islamia High School Muzaffar Nagar & completed his matriculation from the same school. Coming from Urdu medium background & once expelled from middle school delayed his matriculation. He matriculated at the age of twenty in 1942. He also motivated his younger brother Shafique Ahamd for the studies who is now a retired Professor & settled in Florida USA. After completing Matriculation in 1942 AD from Islamia High School Muzaffar Nagar in First Division, he was misled by a recruiting agent and joined the British Army as a Havaldar Clerk. His Corp was ASC. Later he repented it because there was no release from the Army during the WW II. He was one of the earliest recruits in Defence forces from his locality as there was no tradition of joining Defence Forces among Arains who were prospered by the landholdings. In 1942 when he was under training at Bareilly his marriage was arranged. He got a single day leave & his Sikh Company Commander gave him an optional leave on the birthday of Baba Gru Nanak Dev. Later on I used to cut joke with him by saying that this might be the reason we have certain habits resembling the Sikhs. He got four transfers during three and a half years. Trained at Bareilly, then first posting at Karachi Cantt, second at Ferozpur and fourth at Lucknow. On 6th August 1945 USA detonated the first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and second on Nagasaki on 9th August that ended WWII. Now the release from the Army became open. My late father immediately applied for release and it was granted. Based on his education, he was rehabilitated as Assistant Welfare Officer and placed at Lucknow.
For the first time he took his family that includes my mother & my elder sister late Fatima who was born in January 1945 to Lucknow. I was yet not born. In the mid of 1947 the situation started to deteriorate particularly in the cities so my parents came back to their village. Before leaving Lucknow my late father bought edible Attar from Ms Iqtida Khan Muqtida Khan so from August to December 1947 he sold it to the local sweetmeats marts. This was the time when I was born on 20th October 1947. My father waited till the mid of December and finally decided to migrate to Pakistan, a dream land for the Indian Muslims. My parents with two children reached Lahore on 25 th December 1947. My father reported to his ex-unit at Jehlum. He was converted to Upper Division Clerck & send to serve the industries department at Lyallpur now Faisalabad. We were allotted temporarily a house in Mohalla Khalsa College. We remained at Lyallpur for five years. My father used to go to a place Mae Di Jhuggi to his office. Although I was a child of four years I still remember the road leading to Kohinoor Textiles Mills and the bullock carts carrying cotton. I also remember that the majority of residents in our Mohalla were Punjabi speakers and my father told me that they were Punjabi speaking Pathans from Amritsar. There was no mosque in the vicinity so all the people made efforts to make a masjid. My father occupied an Ahata, kept four buffaloes in it and with the help of a servant used to maintain them and also sold milk to the local Halwais.
I don’t remember
personally but as I was told that in 1949 my late father picked up a quarrel
with a Pesh Immam (Cleric who performs prayers in mosque) who allegedly
indulging in some unwanted activities and my late father stabbed and injured
him seriously right in masjid during Isha prayers. The local police arrived and
arrested him. My late mother used to tell us that this was one of the toughest
days in her life. It was the time when my younger sister was about to be
born. It was after 15 days his release
was arranged and the Punjabi friends helped him a lot. He had to approach the
family of the injured person and offered him reasonably good amount by selling
the four buffalos. This was the time when my younger sister was born and she
was named Masooda which means a person of good luck.
Now my late father was fed up petty local politics. He returned to the self-studies. He did Adeeb Fazil, then Bachelors in English language and went to Sialkot to got admission in MA (English) in Murray College Sialkot. During the evenings, he used to serve as Accountant in a surgical instruments firm. He completed his MA Previous from Murray’s College. I vividly remember first we used to live in Sialkot Saddar and then in Ghazipur/Talwara. Ghazipur was small village of Jutts (a sturdy & respectable caste in Punjabis). It was pretty difficult to pull on economically with the family of six members and he continued with his MA classes so in MA Final he moved to Rawalpindi where we had some well-established relatives from Pilibhit connection. One of them Mian Faheem ud Din was Deputy Military Accountant General & his brother In law Abdul Khaliq Jillani was Accounts & Audit Officer in Military Accounts. My father took admission in MA Final in Gordon College Rawalpindi. It was in January 1956 that my late father joined GHQ as Assistant Superintendent on basis of BA. Thus we started living in Tench Bhata a suburb of Rawalpindi. I remember the celebration of 23rd March 1956 when Pakistan was declared Republic. It was in May 1957 that my father took me for admission in class 6 he submitted an affidavit that I had not studied in a regular school so I was given a test in Urdu, Math and General Knowledge which I passed successfully. I studied in Cantonment Board High School Lalkurti Rawalpindi. The headmaster of the school, Mr. Ansari was very efficient gentleman. I studied in that school up to class eight. Some of the teachers I remember were science teacher Mr. Samiulla, Urdu teacher Mr. Sabir , English teacher. It is no more a village rather a suburb. As my father was serving in GH Q and we were allotted a JCO quarter in Victoria Barracks just opposite Convent School and very close to Lalkurti Rawalpindi. Then my father applied for the allotment of small property in exchange what was left in India and he was allotted five acres of fertile land and a house just in the beginnings of Bazar Garhi Daulat Zai part of big village Garhi Kapura Tehsil in District Mardan. The house was left by one Ram Singh but was occupied by some local family but it was the time when Martial Law was imposed by General Muhammad Ayoub Khan and things were moving very quickly. My father exerting the influence of GHQ got both his properties vacated. He himself got posted at Air Headquarters Peshawar and we started living in Garhi Kapura. It was in 1961 I was admitted in class eight in Government High School Garhi Kapura. I was the only Urdu Speaking student in the school and called “Panhguzeen” a Pashtun word meaning Refugee. I picked up Pashto very quickly. Our headmaster was Sir Fida Younas from the nearby village Galyara who was towering personality in a small school. I studied in this school for two years and then my father decided to shift his family to Peshawar Saddar. A house was allotted right on the city saddar road near Green Hotel opposite General Post Office. The street was known as Donga Gali. I got admission in Government High School one of the best in Peshawar Cantonment. I passed my matriculation from there. Among our teachers Mr. Husnain Naqvi was an outstanding personality. He was remembered as an iconic educator in Peshawar Saddar. I passed SSC in 1964 and my late father had a desire that I should become an agricultural scientist. I was taken to Agriculture College Peshawar for admission and after a short interview with the vice principal Dr. Roghani I was admitted. The most interesting part of the interview, it was started in English and came to an end in Pashto. Dr Roghani remarked that I spoke Pashto perfectly but Tauseef is not a common name among the Pashtuns. Dr. Shamsul Islam Ali Khan was the Principal of Agriculture College. United States government was kind to Pakistan & our Agriculture College of Peshawar was associated with Colorado State University. The majority of the faculty members hold Doctorates in various disciplines. Every student was given scholarship and the scholarship of the boarders was double than the day scholars. It was my hard luck or laziness that I did not succeed there. My late father said that if you had the talent you are likely to succeed in any field. I pray for his departed soul. It was August 1965 and Indo-Pak battle had yet not taken place. My father decided that I should go to India and meet my relatives as my paternal uncles; Nani (Grandmother), Khalu (Uncle) & Khala (Aunt) were alive then. Not hardcore but skirmishes were taking place in Dara Haji Pir in Kashmir. I raised my concern to my late father but he told it was common between India and Pakistan since 1947. So it was on 30 August 1965 that I departed for Bareilly by Hora Mail which used to depart from Platform No.4. I reached Bareilly next morning and was received by my Khalu Haji Amir Ahmad. I was still staying with my Nani when one of our relatives who had a radio run with battery informed that the battle between India and Pakistan had commenced. It was on the evening of 6th September 1965 that a constable from Police Station Amaria came and informed that I was under house arrest. Two of my relatives gave guaranty that I would remain confined to the village Karghaina. It was just a formality otherwise I used to roam all the areas of Rayeenwara (a local term used for Arain villages in Pilibhit). So I remained with my ancestors up to February 1966 till the Tashkent Declaration took place. The other mishap happened in land of ancestors; I lost my Pakistani passport for which FIR had to be lodged in Police Station of Amaria, a small town of Pilibhit near my mother ancestral village. Finally my Khalu Haji Amir Ahmad went to Pakistan Embassy Delhi and got a new passport issued for me. In February 1966 I returned by land route of Ganda Singh Hussaini Wala. Here during stay six months at ancestral village of my mother in Pilibhit, UP, I also learned little bit of Hindi Language.
I finished my Intermediate (FA examinations) in 1967 & took admission in Government College Peshawar. It was a great experience to stay for two years in this institution. Mr. Mosa Khan Kaleem was principal. It was during General Yahya Khan regime when I started my career as upper division Clerk in Accountant General NWFP Office. I must mention here that I was already rejected twice Inter Services Selection Board aka ISSB. After serving AG Office for one year and four month’s one of my colleagues. A friend informed me he had listened on radio that Pakistan Air Force was in need of Education Instructors directly to be inducted as Flight Sergeant. He also informed me the basic requirement was BA/BSc in Second Division. I immediately reported to PAF Information and selection center located on 3 The Mall Peshawar. Flag officer Nazir Mirza was Officer in Charge who reviewed my documents & passed to wing commander who was Director of Education. I very well remember it 28th April 1971. After basic Intelligence test and primary medical examination I, Fazal Karim, Mosam Khan and Ajab Khan were sent School of Education for basic training of 6 weeks. I was transferred to Central Technical Development Unit, PAF Base Faisal as Ian in charge for Library. On 16 December 1971 when the Pakistan Defence Forces surrendered at Dhaka, there was urgent need of Education Instructors at PAF Kohat because all the Bengali Education Instructors and Officers were demobilized. I was posted to recruits Training School Kohat now known as PTTS . From June1972I to June I974 Base Commanders Kohat were Grp Capt H MC Misra, Grp Capt Nazir A Mirza, Air Commodore M Afzal Khan. I taught English and Pakistan Studies there for two years and then I was transferred to Air Headquarters Peshawar in Central Library from November 1972 to September 1973. In September 1973 I was back in teaching at Kohat. Once again I was transferred to Central Library Air Headquarters Peshawar. I must mention that my late father was GSO III aka Gazetted Staff Officer at Air Headquarters Peshawar and I was unmarried so he got me twice transferred to Peshawar. I got married to Sarwat on 28th December. They were our relatives & connected with our small Pilibhit based Arain tribe in Pakistan. They lived from 1950 to 1974 in Kocha Hari Singh, Main Bazar Kohat. They later shifted to Lahore and lived in Gulberg III. I completed four years as Flight Sargent & four years as Warrant Officer. Then as an Education Instructor at Peshawar. Now I completed 8 years so I was eligible for Commission so applied for it & my good luck that most of Education Instructors were on Deputation to Libya. I was selected easily and send to College of Education Kohat for six months. It was the time when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged on 4th April 1979 and everybody felt it very badly. In this College Group Captain Kiyani later on Air Commodore Kiyani and Group Captain Nizam and Flt Lt Masroor Ahmad Siddiqui were good teachers. I graduated as a Flying Officer and transferred to Directorate of Studies PAF Academy Risalpur but one of my ex comrade then Warrant Officer Rao Ayoub (now a big tycoon as a property dealer in Malir Cantt, Karachi) played dirty politics and I was posted to PAF Base Samungli. Now I realize that people were against me but Allah was very kind to me otherwise I would had never seen Balochistan and enjoyed my three years stay at Quetta. My first Base Commander was Air Commodore Aziz known as Aziz Tao and second Base Commander was then Air Commodore Akhtar Bukhari later on AVM Bukhari really a good commander. Begum Bukhari was a German lady of a cultivated taste. All students used to go to Quetta for studies. She asked me to establish a school up to class 5 so we were successful in establishing the school. My son Ehtisham Khan was born on 18th August 1981at PAF Base Samungli. I stayed at PAF Base Samungli (Quetta) for three years. In 1982 my father was retired from Peshawar. I served Air force for thirty years & got retirement in 2001. A year after my father left the world in 2002 at the age of ninety. I joined one private Air force training center & served there for the next ten years.
In flashback, the memories of my six month stay visit to India, the land of my ancestors are still fresh in my mind. The connection with the hometown where I was born seems to be inseparable. This is memoir of the man who left India along with his parents at age of three months. He was brought up & educated in Punjab, & Khyber Pakhtunwala. For six months, during his teen age, he stayed in India, his birthplace & land of his ancestors. In addition to Urdu as first language, he fluently spoke Punjabi, Pasthu, English & Hindi. Where many of the smart cities residents felt embarrassed to affiliate with the mofussil towns of UP & Bihar, Mian Tauseef proudly associate with small town of Pilibhit on the other side of Radcliffe line. Where many of his relatives from Pilibhit Arain diaspora in Pakistan finds chauvinism with their ancestral roots of Colonial zamindari of United Provinces, he is proud of his roots from the Kisan(Farmer) grandfather.
The story of Haji Baqir Ali Badayuni, the Halwa Paratha seller who was acknowledged by the Late Prime minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi
Each year during the month of Dhul Qadah, the annual congregation (Urs) of 19th-century Sufi saint widely popular as Shah Ji Mohammad Sher Miyan took place in the small city of Uttar Pradesh, Pilibhit. The main congregational prayers were held on 03rd to 05th Dhul Qadah. As common with all Urs and traditional fairs, one can find makeshift stalls of Halwa Paratha erected on road leading to the dargah. Last year while passing down the crowded street near the dargah, it was two old portraits hanging on the stall of ” Badayuni Halwa Paratha” that caught my attention for exploration. The first one is the portrait captioned in Urdu and Hindi introducing him as Late Haji Baqar Ali Badayuni. In the first portrait, the late Baqar has nicely wrapped a traditional white turban with a vest jacket (Sadri). The pen clipped to the front pocket of the vest reflected an impressive dressing style more of a writer than a Halwa Paratha shop owner. The second portrait was torn from the lower edge and almost faded. In this portrait, the Baqir was receiving an award from late Prime minister, Indira Gandhi. I made a request to the man sitting on the cash counter to parcel one packet of his calories loaded large size Paratha, and Halwa made up of Suji (Semolina). During the conversation, he told that Haji Baqar Ali was his grandfather who started to sold Halwa Paratha during Colonial days. The Halwa Paratha stall was named after his birthplace, Badayun. Badayun is the small city of Uttarpradesh located one hundred twenty-eight kilometers south-west of Pilibhit. It was once the mighty capital of Katehar Province during the reign of Mamluks and also the birthplace of the famous 13th-century Sufi of Central Asian origin, Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya.
In the decade of the sixties and seventies, the Badayuni Halwa Paratha was a popular street food stall at Urs of Hazrat Nizamuddin and Hajj house near Turkman Gate at Delhi. In off times, he used to manage a hotel at Badayun named as Sultani Hotel. It was during this time, Haji Baqar Ali was also acknowledged by Late Prime minister, Indira Gandhi for serving his street food delicacy at syncretic Indian gatherings especially at Hazrat Nizamuddin Urs. For almost six decades, the man moved with his stall at the Urs (death anniversary) of Sufis like a wandering nomad. Haji Abdul Qadir passed away in mid-eighties at age of eighty-eight years. While recalling the old days, the grandson of Baqar Ali got melancholic.
In the present scenario, he is hardly able to manage expenses as the earnings are meager in comparison to the grandfather days. These two portraits and name of the stall “Badayun Halwa Parath” made his street food shop different from the several others. This seems to the prized possession of a grandson who is now taking care of Haji Baqar legacy.
A mid-nineteenth century British magistrate whose efforts gave the first modern school to the small city of United Provinces
Text & Pictures by Rehan Asad
Pilibhit is located fifty-five kilometers south of Bareilly is North Eastern most district of Rohilkhand division, Uttarpradesh, India. In 1879, Pilibhit was created as the separate district from Bareilly. Little is known of the main city before the settlement of Ruhela Afghans especially when Hafiz Rahmat Khan who made it as the capital of Rohilkhand in 1740. Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol 11 (1886) by Sir William Wilson Hunter wrote about the market Drummond Ganj that was named after a former District Officer having the substantial number of goods shops located at the main part of the city. This beautiful market was built by the British magistrate Honorable R. Drummond at Pilibhit. There were around three hundred twenty shops enclosed in the four gates. The gateways were arranged in a pattern that gave an appearance of the cross. The northern and southern gateways were approximately two hundred fifty meters apart.
The eastern and western gateway were approximately a hundred meters away from each other. Ten meters away from the Northern gateways, the connecting roads to the gateways intersect to form the crossroads.
Made up of Lakhori/small bricks and red lime (Surkhi Chuna), the outer plaster has carved floral designs that have been lost in most of the gateways. Each gateway is beautifully designed in an Indo Saracenic pattern with arches, Taakhs, and minarets. The roof has the vaulted appearance but not like a dome.
The inner walls of the gateways have the curved enclosures fitted with wooden frames with the doors that lead to the chambers. The outer section also has similar arched curves that have the opening for the windows of the first floor chambers. The income generated from this market was endowed for promoting education among the locals of the community at Pilibhit. I was not able to found the construction date of Drummond Ganj but an approximate idea can be built by the reference where it has been cited. One of the oldest references is the Stewart report of the Public education of North-Western Provinces published from Benares in 1859. The report quoted “The Pilibhit school is maintained by the local funds, the proceeds of the Ganj built by Hon’ble R. Drummond, for many years, the joint magistrate of Pilibhit, Rs 15, the pay of the master of Tahsil, amalgamated with Anglo-Vernacular school is the only item of the expenditure which defrayed by the Government“. From this account it appears, that Drummond Ganj was constructed before the formation of District in 1879 and even before the mutiny in 1857. Mr. Shahbuddin, a senior citizen from Muslim Khatri (Punjabi) community whose great grandfather, Sheikh Jiwan Buksh build a grandiose haveli closeby Drummondganj before 1857 narrated the similar version of its construction as an endowment for the educational cause for the locals. The book life and works of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan by GFI Graham (1885) also reflected on the educational inclination of Drummond. The book cites “In 1864, Hoble R. Drummond presided over an educational meeting at Badaon that was attended by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and the latter also delivered a speech in the convocation“. Later in 1908, H.R. Nevill Gazette also talked of Drummond Ganj endowment that covers the expense of the Pilibhit School. It was after his great contributions towards the education of the Pilibhit, the government high school and later on the intermediate College was named as Drummond Inter College.
Almost thirty years before during our childhood days, the four gateways of Drummond Ganj were in better condition. The southern gateway that was facing towards the road to Bareilly was popular among locals as “Bareilly Darwaza”. The ground floor has the number of shops occupied by the tenants. The first floor was occupied by registry department issuing death & birth certificates. Among the four gateways, it was completely intact during those days. During the year 1999, I visited this office thrice to get a death certificate of my late maternal grandfather.
Though shabby and stinky, it was not expected to crumble down completely in the next twenty years. With time, the government offices have been shifted to newly constructed larger office spaces in civil lines. In the last two decade, the vaulted roof has fallen down. The shopkeepers secured their own space but the surroundings of the gateways degraded with time. Most of the shopkeepers sitting in these historic gateways are either Hindu Banias and Muslim Khatris ( Shamsi/Punjabi Muslims) who form the major bulk of trading community from the time of Ruhelas and later on Britishers. When the beautiful building of the first government school was raised in 1915, it was named after Drummond as an acknowledgment for his great efforts.
After independence, it was raised to the senior secondary level and documented as State Government Drummond Inter College. Unfortunately, the local civic authorities became dementic regarding the legacy of Drummond that endowed the money for running the first educational establishment of the city for almost a century ago. This is a real unfortunate face of many crumbling monuments in small cities. A small effort in this direction can help to save our heritage.
Hunter, William Wilson. Imperial Gazetteer of India... Vol. 11. Trumbner & Company, London, 1879.
Henry Stewart Reid, Report on the state of Popular education, in the North Westen Provinces, for 1856/57 and 1857/1858, Published under the authority of the Government, Benares, Medical Hall press, 1859.
Nevill, H.R. (1909), PILIBHIT: A Gazetteer of the District Gazetteers of United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, VolXVIII.
This eighteenth-century bridge on Khakra river connects the Pilibhit city with adjoining village Chandoi. Even after the fall of Ruhela, the zamindari rights of the village continued to be retained by the Pashtun family. The road connecting the village with the city is named after the early twentieth-century zamindar, Asghar Yaar Khan. Approximately two hundred meters on the western side from the main road after the crossing of the bridge on the Asghar Yaar Khan road, a secluded mosque is located on the bank of the river.
According to the documents, the locality was named as “Gher Khandhar”. Within the premises of mosque, there is an old graveyard, with some graves having prominent tombstones. The surroundings have been covered by trees, shrubs, sugarcane plantation and mango orchards.
The original eighteenth-century structure was completely damaged by 1900 and the new mosque was constructed by Asghar Yaar Khan in 1902 over the ruins of the old structure. In 1994, the third construction took place as the second one was also crumbling. At someplace, the boundary wall of first construction is quite evident.
The main area of interest for the history lovers is the graveyard where it is widely believed that the resting place of the Ruhela Cheif, Hafiz Rahmat Khan mother is located. Close by two small graves has been directed towards the minor sons of Rahmat who died at early age. Hafiz Rahmat Khan was at the Abdali camp with his son Inayat Khan and other major Ruhela allies during the third battle of Panipat. When the news of his mother death reached also present among the allies were Oudh Nawab Shuja Ud Daula. According to Hayate Hafiz (authored by Syed Altaf Ali) Rabia Zamani, the mother of Hafiz Rahmat Khan passed few days before the third battle of Panipat at Pilibhit in the year 1761. Ahmad Shah Abdali and other allies send most of his senior leaders to offer condolences in the camp of Hafiz Rahmat Khan. He also cited that after his return from the Panipat, the Ruhela leader first visited the grave of his mother at Pilibhit.
One of the son, Himmat Khan who passed at the age of tweleve few months after the battle of Panipat was also buried here. In 1972, one of the descendants from Ruhela lineage (Great-grandson of the Hafiz Rahmat Khan grandson, Arshaf Khan) who came from Karachi to visit his ancestral city. He got repaired the grave and fixed the white stone tablet on the tombstone. Near the entrance to the praying area, there was an old open-air grave made up of small bricks. Few years before, the local community repaired the grave and constructed a roof of brick and concrete slab. According to the oral history narratives, this grave is attributed to 18th-century mendicant and scholar Akhund Faqir who was highly revered by the Ruhelas.
Most of the residents left the place during partition. By 1970, the remaining residents relocated from Gher Kandahar to the city. The praying area and premises remained deserted till 1993. Due to its deserted situation for almost more than two decades, it also became popular among the locals as “Jinnat Wali Masjid”.
The volunteered members of the local community took an initiative and prayers has been started. By 1994, the new building was constructed by the collaborative efforts. In the premises of the mosque and surrounding area, there existed a thick plantation of trees and shrubs that include North Indian rosewood ( Sheesham), Mulberry (Shahtoot), Neem, and Jujube (Beri).
The old graveyard, mendicant tomb, surrounding trees and its location by the side of the river add the sense of serenity to the location. Sometimes people from different faiths also visited here with a belief of fulfilling their wishes (Murad). Its old boundary wall and old graves in the premises has many narratives behind its historical timeline.
The story of the Colonial Zamindar, and a Philanthropist from early 20th century, Pilibhit, United Provinces
Text by Rehan Asad| family Pics & Portraits by Mr. Mohammad Aslam
On 18th February 1917, a zamindar from a nearby village Daang, Pargana Jahanabad addressed a convocational gathering at Karghaina Building, Pilibhit, United Provinces as President of the Anjuman. I translated excerpts of his speech published in the Rawaid (minutes/proceedings of the convocation) from Bareilly in the same year. It reflected the profound insight of the man towards the role & the importance of modern education. “Modern education is the only tool to remove ignorance among communities. Muslims like other communities in subcontinent don’t have an inclination for modern education and this is the reason of the lagging of Muslims in all walks of life. Especially for our community in Rohilkhand, we are deliberately parting away from modern education. It is the lack of the modern education which is responsible for our heavy losses to the zamindari estates, and it will remain same in future. It would be a sense of grief for all of us that in the time of British governance that blessed us with a lot of favors, facilities, and freedom and still if our community would be isolated from the jewel of modern education. It should be our duty and efforts that we should accept the importance of modern education from our hearts. By the grace of God, you all are quite capable of resources to provide higher education to our young generation and also to those orphans of the community those are in utmost need. Therefore it is necessary to donate hefty amounts related to the scholarships for higher education.”– Speech Sheikh Ahmad Nazeer, 1917AD .
Family Background and Introduction: Sheikh Taj Mohammad was the founder of the household in Rohillkhand region and sixth in the generation of Sheikh Taj Mohammad was born Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad in the family Sheikh Mohammad Buksh . According to Tarrekh Arain his ancestors originally belonged to Salarpur, District Jalandhar, Punjab, who migrated to Mangala, District Sirsa (presently in Haryana) and then moved to Rohilkhand in the late 18th century . Nevill in the District Gazette of Pilibhit (1909) cited the family of Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad as one of the notable and leading zamindars of Pargana Jahanabad, District Pilibhit . His father Haji Sheikh Mohammad Buksh was a pious landlord who donated a considerable property from his zamindari shares in Pargana Richaa, District Bareilly to the waqf of the historic Jama Masjid, Pilibhit. In the late 19th century, a Madarsa was also stared by his father at Village Daang, the headquarter of his zamindari estate. As the trend of the time among prosperous cultured families in those days, he was groomed by his father & private tutors. He had a good understanding of Arabic, Persian, and Urdu.
Description of his estate: The District Gazette of Pilibhit cited the revenue of his estate “Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad son of Sheikh Mohammad Buksh, an Arain hold seven villages and fifteen shares in District Pilibhit and pay revenue of ten thousand four hundred thirty-eight INR (Drake, 1934AD) ”. He also held three whole villages in District Bareilly. Eighteen years later when the assessment report was prepared for the abolition of zamindari system based on the revenue in United Provinces, the total number of the zamindars in the highest strata i.e., ten thousand Indian Rupees were only three hundred ninety . On reviewing District Gazetteer, I found that it was the highest revenue paid to the Government in Pargana Jahanabad and third highest in the District. As a foresighted man, he understood the outcomes of the upcoming reforms of United Provinces. It was during his time, the Daang estate also created a huge agrarian farm under the category of “Sir/Khudkasht” land with newly introduced machines and tractor. All these records showed that he belonged to one of the richest families in the district and among the top strata of United Province’s zamindar aristocracy. In 1952 after the abolition of Zamindari his descendants were able to hold an agrarian farmland spread over an area of more than two hundred acres of the land. He also had an honorary exemption from British Government arm acts .
Services & Charities: Whether it was the organization of feast on special occasions of Muharram, Rabi Ul Awwal or the expense of the “Urs” of the revered saint who was resting in the premises of Jahanabad Police Station, Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad continued the traditional charities of his forefathers. Aged locals still recalled him and his father as “Chote Miyan” and “Bade Miyan” who always treated their ancestors with generosity irrespective of their caste, creed, religion & social status. A trait that was rare to be found among the zamindars in the stratified rural settings of Colonial India. In 1915, he was one from Rohilkhand Arain community along with Shiekh Tajuddin, his brother Shiekh Wisluddin and Sheikh Abdul Haqq who attended the Arain convocation held at Lahore under the leadership of Sir Mian Mohammad Shafi. The main goal was to spread the awareness of the modern education. On 16 March 1916, Anjuman Arain, Rohilkhand & Kumaon was formed with its main goal to push the community towards modern education. Shiekh Nazeer Ahmad was appointed as the President of this society. During the span of a year handsome amount of three thousand three hundred twenty was collected with a donation of more than two hundred Indian Rupees by him. Almost a century before, two hundred Indian Rupees was the monthly salary of Class one officer. Among the many beneficiaries of this Anjuman, the foremost was Dr. Abdul Ghafor who got Indian Rupees Four/Month scholarship for his studies at Agra Medical School. He was also one of the contributors in established of first Islamia School at the district in 1932. The madrasa established by his father at the headquarter of the estate, Village Daang was also upgraded by him. It continued to serve as the junior high school till 1980s long after his death.His hospitality was still recalled by the locals. His ninety-year-old daughter informed that kitchen of his father offered food on daily basis to rich, poor, needy and passing by strangers. The ladies of the family personally supervised the daily preparations on the larger scale with the assistance of maids and trail of helpers.
Legacy: During his life, he was highly influenced by the educational moves and reforms of Sir Mian Mohammad Shafi (a Punjabi leader of Muslim league, educationist, Politician and Vice President of Viceroy Executive council) but maintained his stance to remained away from the political ideology of Muslim league. From his children, no one moved to Pakistan at the time of the partition. Later one daughter and youngest son relocated to Pakistan in last decade of the fifties due to matrimonial ties. He left behind a handwritten diary that he used to document relevant pieces of his life. Few pages had been shared by his grandson, Mr. Mohammad Aslam that showed the date, year, time of the birth of all his children.
Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad took his last breath in 1947 at the age of seventy and buried at family graveyard at Village Daang, the seat of his ancestors. He was survived by three sons, eldest Mr. Mohammad Ahmad, second, Mr. Mohammad Tahir and youngest Mr. Mohammad Athar and six daughters. Mr. Mohammad Athar moved to Italy after completing his Masters in Geology from Aligarh Muslim University in 1958. He got married to Miss. Anjum Ara Naeemi, the daughter of Mr. Abdul Hafeez Naeemi in 1960. Her wife was also 1957 graduate of Aligarh Muslim University. After his return from Italy, he joined as a geologist at ONGC India, Limited at Dehradun. In 1967, the couple relocated to Pakistan where he joined as Assistant Director in Ministry of Petroleum and Natural resources. Working at different positions, he retired as the Additional Secretary of Ministry of Finance, Pakistan in the year 1999. Among the daughters, only Mrs. Hajra Begum moved to Pakistan. She was born on 28th October 1920 and married to the Mr. Abdul Khaliq Jilani, S/O Hafiz Abdul Rasheed of Village Karghaina, Pilibhit. Mr. Abdul Khaliq Jilani relocated to Pakistan and retired as Deputy Controller, Military Accounts.
The eldest son, Mr. Mohammad Ahmad continued maintained his estate for short span before its abolition. Shortly after the death of his father, the zamindari abolition act was passed and villages came under the direct control of the government. The family retained the possession of agrarian lands, haveli, and other assets till the seventies. Seventy years had passed and now all his children also passed away except his one daughter, Mrs. Asiya. Born on 04th April 1926, she is currently residing with his son at Aligarh.
She still recollected her memories of childhood days that witnessed the heydays of Daang estate under his father, Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Mr. Mohammad Aslam for sharing the rare family portraits and diary pages. He is the grandson of Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad living in the Houston, Texas, United States from last thirty years. A doctorate in organic chemistry, he is an alumnus of Aligarh Muslim University, India & University of West Ontario, Canada. He passed his Masters in Organic Chemistry from Aligarh Muslim University in 1975 and completed his Ph.D. from University of Western Ontario, London, Canada in 1981. Formerly, he had been Vice President, Research, and Development at Lonza Group, a global organization for providing solutions for pharma and healthcare.
Note: In changing 21st-century, the members of small Punjabi Diasporic community (Arain/Rain) having roots from the villages of Rohilkhand & Kumaon (Bareilly, Pilibhit & District Nainital) can be found in Pakistan, Middle Eastern countries, Canda, United States, & other western countries. Its the efforts of their elders who made great efforts more than a century ago to push the community towards modern education.
Glossary of terms:
Anjuman: An Urdu term used for the societies/organizations.
Raees: The literal meaning is “Rich”. It was common practice to be used as an honorary appellation with the landlords of Urdu speaking United Provinces in Colonial India.
Rawaid: The literal meaning of “Rawaid” is to perform or officiate. Here it is used in a context to document or officiate the proceedings of the Anjuman meet.
Sir/Khudkasht: A category of the land that is cultivated by the zamindars by their own efforts. When zamindari reforms were passed, they were allowed to hold “Khudkasht/ self-cultivated” lands.
Zamindar: A medieval Urdu term used for the landlord in Colonial India.
Ahmad, N. (1917), Rawaid Ajlas Awwal, Anjuman Arain, Rohilkhand and Kumaon, conducted on 18th February 1917 AD at the house of Sheikh Maulvi Abdul Haqq, Joint secretary, and Raees Pilibhit. From Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad Raees e Azam Daang and President, and Shiekh Tajuddin Sahib, Raees Hulkari Dhakia, Secretary. Printed and designed at Kohadapeer, Bareilly.
Ishaaq, M., and Naseem, M. (2001), In Chapter thirteen, Arain, Sangam offset and press, pp.36.
 Chaudhry, Asgahr A. (1963), chapter three, Tarrekh Arain, 5th Ed., Asghar Ali Chaudhry, Ilmi Kutubkhana, Urdu Bazar, Lahore, pp.148.
 Nevill, H.R. (1909), PILIBHIT: A Gazetteer of the District Gazetteers of United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, VolXVIII.
 Rudade Ajlas Awwal, Anjumane Arain, Rohilkhand and Kumaon, conducted on 18th February 1917 AD at the house of Sheikh Maulvi Abdul Haqq, Joint secretary, and Raees Pilibhit. From Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad Raeese Azam Daang and President, and Shiekh Tajuddin Sahib, Raees Hulkari Dhakia, Joint Secretary. Printed and designed at Kohadapeer, Bareilly.
Chaudhry, Asgahr A. (1963), chapter three, Tarrekh Arain, 5th Ed., Asghar Ali Chaudhry, Ilmi Kutubkhana, Urdu Bazaar, Lahore, pp.141.
Drake-Brockman, D.L. (1934), District Gazeeter of United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, Supplement D: Pilibhit District.
Explore the beauties on the route from Sitarganj to Kathgodam via SIDCUL & Chorgallia
Text & pictures by Rehan Asad| Chorgallia is the small village of Haldwani Tahsil, District Nainital. Located twenty-eight kilometers south of Kathgodam on the alternative snaky route passing between the Gaula river bed and forest range on the other side. As Nevill¹ (1904) described the origin of name Chorgallia derived in the late 19th century when the dacoits found this spot at the crossing of Nandhaur river as safe hiding heaven in the thickly populated forest of Bhabar². The vigilance of precious Sal forest of Bhabar in adjoining area leads to the construction of government estate Bungalow by Forest Department in Colonial-era. This Bungalow is now turned in ruins.
The Nandhaur river arising from the height of seven thousand feet at Chaugarh crossed Chorgallia by passing through Bhabar forest range and entered the Terai forest of Pilibhit district. It is only after crossing Chorgallia, the river is renamed as Deoha. In 2012, the beautiful landscape of Nanduar forest area³ was declared as Wildlife sanctuary. Chorgallia as a gateway to Nandhaur Wildlife reserve received the attention of the tourist. This year Uttarakhand spring bird festival selected Chorgallia as the site to increase the awareness towards the diverse species of the birds residing at Nandhaur wildlife reserve. The event was conducted from 03rd March to 5th March/2017 at Chorgallia forest rest house campus. Once you enter the route to Chorgallia from Kathgodam after crossing colonial days bridge on the Gola river, the natural landscape of Bhabar forest and riverbed will be welcoming your drive. On the way to Chorgallia, you have to cross three river crossings (known as rapta by locals), that is only unsafe after heavy rains in Monsoons. The water channels comings from the height with high velocity can sweep even heavy vehicles like bus/truck in running water. After driving further twenty eight-kilometer south from Chorgallia you will reach Sitarganj (a town with the municipal board of District Udham Singh Nagar). Most of the Terai forest in this stretch of twenty-eight kilometers has been cleared off and industries have been established since the formation of SIDCUL (State Industrial Development Corporation of Uttarakhand) in 2002. The fifty-kilometer drive from Kathgodam to Sitarganj offered sightseeing of rivers beds, river crossings (rapta), Nandhaur wildlife reserve, Shiwalik elephant reserve, distant hills of Himalayas, with beautiful Chorgallia village located in the midway of the route.
Nevill, H. R. “Nainital: A Gazetteer, BEING VOL XXXIV, of the District Gazetteers of United Province of Agra and Oudh.” (1904). Printed at Allahabad, Government Press, United Provinces.
Bhabar is a tract formed in the foothill of Himalayas by the deposition of the coarse material such as pebbles and cobbles. The river bed in this area appeared waterless except monsoons due to extreme porous nature. The foothill of Himalayas is divided in Terai and Bhabar.
Nandhaur forest area is a forest reserve of 296 square Kilometer located between Sarda, Gola, and intersection of Nandhaur in Haldwani region of Nainital. It’s home to Asian elephants, Tigers, Leopard and Sloth Bears.